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FEBRUARY 17, 2009   

What's the message?

Peace sign hanging from tree branch on Bridge Ave.Peace signs have been sprouting here and there throughout my Near West Side neighborhood. There are a lot worse things that could appear on the local landscape, but I'm still ambivalent about these signs.

The familiar shape (sometimes confused with the Mercedes logo) was created in 1958 by British designer Gerald Holtom. It was the official logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In the 60s it became connected with the antiwar movement, specifically protests against the war in Vietnam.

If you wore a peace symbol in 1969 there was no doubt as to what you meant: the U.S. should get out of Vietnam, right now. The meaning was so clear—and so controversial—that wearing a peace symbol might get you punched in the face too.

Fast forward to 2009: does the peace symbol mean "U.S. out of Iraq, now!" ? Afghanistan, too? Or is it a more generic "Peace is good" message? If it's not clear what it represents, does it represent anything?

The performer Madonna often wears a necklace with a cross on it. Is she saying she's proud to be a Christian? Is it a parody of Christianity? Or just a fashion accessory?

How about this one?

Face stencilled on back of sign

Walking in Tremont, the neighborhood to the south and east of my own, we saw this face stenciled on the back of sign on a pedestrian bridge.

Unlike the peace symbol it has no particular meaning that I'm aware of. It just looks kind of cool in an unexpected place. If you recognize this as a symbol or logo, please explain via the "Comment" link below.

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